By Alexandria Medellin, J Camp Live! staff
Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist John White wants aspiring photographers to be the lightning, not the thunder.
During a storm, the thunder makes loud sounds, but it does not do much else, White explains. But lightning is powerful, can be seen, and makes things to happen.
“Be the lightning,” White said to 42 high school students yesterday at AAJA’s J Camp, a week-long summer journalism seminar being held at Loyola University of Chicago’s downtown campus, during which high school students hear from a variety of veteran journalists.
The students sat wide-eyed and mostly silent in the presence of this soft-spoken yet surprisingly powerful speaker who has become an inspirational figure in the world of newspaper journalism.
“There’s always a story in every story,”White said.
The photographer shared many stories and experiences dealing with his photography, his journalism, and his life. White described how large and important occurrences always contain smaller stories that are just as important.
White, while pointing his camera at the ceiling and taking a quick shot, told the students he is always. He then replaced his camera on his shoulder, at the ready. Throughout his speech, White would occasionally snap a candid shot of the wall or an unexpecting student.
Throughout his short speaking time, White gave many words of wisdom. He spoke about the many things that he had learned from such respected figures as Muhammad Ali, a dear friend, and Nelson Mandela, a personal hero, White said.
Fumbling for the right words and trying desperately not to use profanity, White gives much advice to the future journalists.
“Be faithful to your dreams; life is short.” White said. “A hundred years from now you’ll be dead, you know it, I know it.”
Although White has had many accomplishments in his career, he is as humble as one can be. One student is so inspired by White’s wisdom and presence that she is lead to tears.
“I’m just an ordinary person.” White said. “It’s my work that is extraordinary.”
White used several metaphors as examples to further explain his thoughts and ideas to the students. His favorites were taken from nature.
“I want you to be the lighting, not the thunder,” White said.